It depends on whether I ever need forgiveness.

Matthew 18:21-35

Jesus had said some things about confrontation, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Peter had a practical question about forgiveness. He even had what he seemed to think was a generous potential answer.

  1. Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
  2. Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
  3. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
  4. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
  5. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
  6. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
  7. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
  8. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
  9. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
  10. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
  11. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
  12. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:
  13. Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?
  14. And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
  15. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

As you will see at the end of this post, I’ve had a lot to say about this in the past. Here are some things I noted this morning…

The evil servant (aka, Servant A) found himself condemned and judged by his own words:

  • “You better pay me all!”
  • “No compassion or mercy for you — off to prison until you pay me all!”

Tough guy.

Right after he hadn’t been so tough.

He asked for patience, for time to pay all. He received mercy as well as forgiveness of all. But I don’t recall thinking about this in verse 32 til this morning: He had actually desired to be forgiven all that debt. Thus, his master responded to more than just his words; he responded to the unspoken desire of his heart. I need much sharper sensitivity and discernment in my relationships with those who wrong me!

...have had compassion...even as I had pity? (Matthew 18:33)

The “magical” words that worked for Servant A did not work on Servant A. When he uttered them to his master, his master forgave him. Alas, when his fellow servant uttered them to him, he refused to forgive his fellow servant.

Forgiveness in human relationships is both seed and fruit in my relationship with God. Here’s what I mean:

  • Seed: Jesus said when I forgive others, I will be forgiven.
  • Fruit: God also says I should forgive others because He has forgiven me.

Another way to state the same truth: Forgiveness in human relationships is both cause and effect in my relationship with God.

We could say the same about unforgiveness. If I withhold forgiveness from someone, and I won’t be able to find it when I need it.

The judgment or mercy I impose on others becomes the judgment or mercy imposed on me.

The mercy I receive must become the mercy I extend to others. The judgment I want must be the judgment I extend.

When I wrong someone, I must plainly and directly ask for forgiveness: “I’m sorry I…” or “Please forgive me for…” or even “My apologies for…”

And when someone apologizes to me, asking for my forgiveness, I must accept the apology and extend my forgiveness, clearly and directly. Simply saying “No problem…” or “Don’t worry about it…” may have a forgiving spirit behind it, but it does not plainly communicate an explicit forgiveness.

Well, I could go on and on. This subject generally and this passage specifically is so big. Here you have more of what I have written in the past:

In closing, two renditions of The Lord’s Prayer:

  • “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).
  • “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us” (Luke 11:4).

I’m sure you have some Food for Thought morsels on the matter. Please share them with the rest of us in a comment below! Post disclaimer: I know there’s far more breadth and depth and height to forgiveness in my relationship with God; this isn’t intended as a fully developed dissertation on the matter.)

One thought on “How Often Should I Forgive?

  1. Thanks Mark for the reminders to see this subject from all perspectives. I thought of this subject of forgiveness in light of one of our brother’s sharing a topic on the Fruit of The Spirit. The virtue of longusufferning came to my mind in relationship to forgivness. I find there are times when you are seeking to reach out and go the seecond, thirrd………. maybe the fiftyeth mile…… that there is a tendency to think, “well it is about time for me to see some changes on the part of the one I’m extending forgiveness to.” What the brother emphasized is that longsuffering does not stop just because the one being shown it does not change. So it is in forgiving those who never acknowledge their wrong.

    Now there is another perspective to this matter also. That is in regards to what Jude speaks of in “hating the garments spotted by the flesh;pulling them out of the fire.” One of the roles I see here is , those who are earnestly contending for the faith, also want to see their brother do so successfully . This does not make us “spot cops,” but first examining to see if our garments are spotted by the flesh, then aggressiviely seeking to “pull others out fo the fire.” I see this as not something passive! This is caring with zeal as Paul speaks ” Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” We don’t resort to what I have heard too often,” I decided to ‘just’ pray, and quit talking to them about their sin.” First of all, I am not deminishing the power of prayer, but let it never be that we think that praying is a subsitute for Galations 6:1.. Yes I admit , it can be less sticky if you ” just” pray. But we know that firemen , and first responders who do not go into action will not keep their position long..

    Just some musings for this morning.
    Lyle Kropf

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